Everything You Need to Know About Zero-Click SEO

  • Up to 50% of searches now end on the SERP without a “click-through” to any featured pages.
  • Zero-click search reflects Google’s shift toward answering users’ queries directly on the SERPs, reducing the need for users to click through to a website.
  • In a zero-click world, click-through rates (CTR) are no longer the best measure of a page’s value to users.
  • Digital marketers can take advantage of zero-click search by optimizing pages for Featured Snippets and other types of quick answers.

Most business owners have at least a basic idea of how SEO works by now. Someone types something into Google, and if your SEO is good enough, you appear in a prominent location on the search results page. If you offer what they want, the searcher clicks through to your awesome website and enters the sales funnel. But what if they don’t click on your site or, in fact, any site at all? 

The rise of zero-click searches is shifting how people navigate the internet and attain information. Recent studies indicate that as much as 25.6% of Google searches for desktop users end without a click. This presents a new challenge for business owners, as a significant percentage of searches now find answers directly on Google, bypassing websites altogether. For the business owner, that means no website visit or stepping into their optimized funnel. Google, previously the middleman between searcher and content provider, is becoming the end-point for some of it.

While previous studies by entities like SparkToro have reported even higher rates of zero-click searches, claiming it hit 65% in 2020, the Semrush study suggests that these numbers have been somewhat inflated. 

So, does this spell the end for SEO? Are all websites going to be swallowed up by the Google behemoth? Are there any ways to still get value out of search? Well, “no,” “no,” and “quite a few actually” are your answers there, but we’ll get to that later. First, let’s take a look at what a zero-click search actually is to start us off on the same page.

What is a zero-click search?

A zero-click search refers to a search query on Google that is answered directly on the results page, removing the need for the user to click on any of the search results for further information. Some obvious examples that you’re probably well used to would be when you ask questions like:

  • What time is it in Indianapolis?
  • What level is the Dow Jones at?
  • What will the weather be like tomorrow?
  • How tall is Anne Hathaway?

Originally, the premise was straightforward: ask a simple question, and you get a simple answer, and Google displays it prominently in a box at the top of the page. This box, in SEO terminology, is known as a Featured Snippet. This might seem simple and logical, but there was once a time when you would actually have to click a website to find out that info, meaning arguments with friends over which actor is taller took at least 30 seconds longer to solve.

However, featured snippets are no longer just about answering short questions with basic facts. They also now answer relatively complex questions, like:

  • How to ripen an avocado?
  • Compare the iPhone 11 vs Samsung s20
  • What are the symptoms of heat stroke?
  • What’s the best truck for towing?

The expansion of featured snippets to cover intricate questions suggests that Google’s primary aim is user satisfaction. The rise of voice search on smartphones and smart speakers also spurred on the zero-click paradigm, where direct answers from search results are read aloud. While this is advantageous for users seeking quick answers, it poses a challenge for businesses that rely on clicks to drive traffic and sales.

As website traffic dwindles due to zero-click searches, many businesses wonder if there’s a silver lining. The good news is that while the landscape is shifting, there are tons of opportunities for adaptation. By leveraging the power of zero-click searches, you can boost brand visibility even in the face of decreasing website traffic. Let’s explore six effective strategies that will help you maintain relevance and flourish in this era of zero-click searches.

6 ways to get zero-click search working for you

1. Prove you’re a thought leader by answering questions.

You know your business better than anyone, right? So why not share the love (and the knowledge) by answering the most common questions people ask about your trade? In the world of zero-click SEO, providing clear and useful answers on the topics you know well will not only position you right at the top of that Google search results page but also demonstrate your authority and experience in your field. It may not be as good as good old-fashioned clicks, but it’s more than your competitors will have.

2. Reconsider your metrics.

One of the most important statistics for the success of a business site is its click-through rate (CTR). This identifies how often people who are searching for a specific keyword decide that your page offers what they are looking for and click through to visit it. However, there may be better ways of measuring success in a zero-click context, as there can be a considerable difference between raw search volume and a search that resulted in a click.

For example, one page could be getting 100% of all actual clicks, but if 99% of the volume is zero-click, that will result in a 1% CTR. So, you might think it’s doing terribly and change the page or scrap it, even though it’s the best-performing page for that keyword.

It also means that when identifying keywords, it’s important to consider those that have a high Click-Per-Search value, not just those with a big raw search volume, as they might not actually be that valuable.

3. Structure content with a zero-click focus.

The best way to make sure you’re getting all the exposure that the featured snippet offers is to structure your content in a way that Google likes to display it. If you look through a few examples or just take note of them when they pop up, you’ll notice some trends to follow for your own content.

  • Speak like an encyclopedia: While it’s great to have an insightful opinion on something when Google takes content for its snippet, it wants it to be as fact-based as possible. Think less: “I absolutely love turquoise, and I think it really goes with my eyes,” and more: “Turquoise is a color. It pairs well with brown eyes.”
  • Use lists or steps: Humans really enjoy lists, so Google really enjoys using them. For your content, this means that anything featuring a “Reasons why/Tips for/Signs that” section should use lists, either numbered or in bullets. The same goes for recipes or how-to guides: list the steps the user needs to take and watch Google transmit them to the Zero-Search world.
  • Optimize your images: Making sure the alt text of an image is related to the query you’re aiming to answer increases your chances of being chosen for the Featured Snippet.

4. Offer value to searchers beyond the basics.

Maybe it used to be enough to just provide numbers and statistics about your products or services, but that just won’t cut it anymore. To get value from your online presence, you have to offer value to your potential visitors. Let them know that you’re not just looking to copy and paste some info you’ve got from elsewhere but that you’re actually providing something new and unique. In other words, don’t tell them that the 49ers lost the Super Bowl; tell them WHY the 49ers lost the Super Bowl.

If you’re focusing on content that can’t be summed up in 50 words and you don’t want competition from Featured Snippets that will undercut your offering, you can use tools like Serpstat to find keywords to focus on that don’t use them (or vice versa).

5. Consider what “people also ask.”

Not featured in the Featured Snippet? No problem, because Google also uses a handy “People Also Ask” tool on many search results pages. So, even if you don’t end up getting the top Featured Snippet position, you can still get traction for answering people’s other queries around the same topic. What’s more, this section also gives you ideas of related searches that you can frame other content around in order to be the zero-click result for those queries.

6. Boost buyer intent.

The age of digital marketing metrics means that marketing has shifted its focus from its traditional roles of increasing exposure and boosting buyer intent. Nowadays, people want hard facts that can be backed up by metrics. Don’t get us wrong – we absolutely love the graphs, bar charts, and percentages we can use to track progress and success. Those little numbers can bring so much joy to SEO geeks. 

But at the end of the day, it’s all about the bottom line, and making someone more likely to buy a product is still what marketing should be doing. In this sense, having fewer clicks is not necessarily the end of the world. With zero-click searches, tire-kickers get to have a quick glance at what’s out there, but people who are further along in their purchasing journey are still going to click through to a site – except now, searches that result in actual clicks are probably even better leads.

Google Business profiles and zero-click SEO

Speaking of businesses, one of the most powerful tools for any business, particularly local businesses, is Google Business Profiles. In today’s SEO landscape, Google Business Profile (GBP) plays a crucial role, particularly with zero-click searches. Here’s why it matters:

  • Immediate access to business info: GBP listings offer essential information such as precise location, operating hours, and valuable reviews right within the search results, eliminating the necessity for users to click any further, except maybe driving directions to your location.
  • Boosting local SEO: In local searches, zero-click results are typical. The query “best burger shop near me”, provides local GBP profiles. An optimized profile showcasing current photos, reviews, and information can set a company apart.
  • Promotional GBP posts: Google lets businesses post events or promotions within their profiles with a feature called “Updates.” These posts live on your GBP and can grab attention and relay timely info to searchers at a glance.
  • Promote your brand/business: An optimized GBP is a business’ first opportunity to showcase who they are. They can share pictures of their products, logo, work, everything. This is a chance to leave a lasting impression on searchers regardless if they click or not.

GBP profiles and zero-click SEO should alter the way businesses think about internet visibility. Rather than simply driving visitors to a website, the emphasis is changing to giving quick value and information directly on the SERP. Businesses can stay ahead by identifying this change and improving their GBP profiles accordingly. 

Not sure where to start? Learn How to Set Up Google Business.

Final thoughts on zero click SEO

The world of search (that is, Google) is evolving towards the not-entirely-unexpected situation where the search engine tries to answer as many queries as possible, without feeling much need to redirect people to other businesses’ websites. While it’s still only 50% of searches, zero-click SEO is something that needs to be taken into consideration when planning how to grow your business online. Google still relies on the information fed by websites and experts such as yourself, so there are plenty of opportunities to increase awareness of your business and establish yourself as a go-to authority on your subject matter. 

We believe in you, and we’re also here to help with any questions you might have about our favorite subject matter. If you want to find out more about getting the most out of zero-click SEO or want to chat about any other aspect of your online presence, feel free to get in touch with us here.

Author avatar
Mauricio Moreno
Mauricio has close to 20 years of digital experience and a core foundation in the technical side of SEO. He’s led and executed strategy both in-house and on the agency side and enjoys defining successful strategies for our clients.
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